July, being the anniversary of our nation’s birth, always causes me to reflect on what our forefathers (and foremothers) sacrificed and the reasons behind their passion.
I am known for my diverse and sometimes discordant opinions. I am a “flower child” in conservative clothing — not as in trying to deceive, but as having that ’60s “flower-child,” anti-war mentality in a “nonrose-colored glasses, old-age perspective.”
My friends run the gamut of tea-party, banner-waving, ultraconservatives to anti-nuclear, peace-flag-waving, put-flowers-in-the-guns liberals. I often wonder how I host all these in my home at one gathering and succeed at everyone exercising the cherished principle of free speech and leaving better friends than before our buzz-fests.
I am concerned so many people espouse the “don’t discuss politics or religion (or nonbelief).” These two topics are so close to our hearts and make up our psyche; to squelch their discussion is to deny revealing who we are, to deny the ability to become close friends.
In a recent discussion I asked a friend why he holds his tongue on these topics. Ultimately, the answer was, for fear of reprisal. From whom? I asked. Those he doesn’t trust or know, the stranger on the street, the officer behind the badge. Thankfully, we broke the wall down and we channeled our energy to hold a strong five-person discussion on the rights for which our Founders fought and died.
The mayday for Independence in the 1770s, with words like liberty, freedom and free speech, was not birthed overnight. It was debated, challenged and argued.
Separation from England was distasteful to the majority of colonists. Independence from lack of representation, not from England, was the goal. A declaration for the right of self-rule was the intention, not separation from the crown.
The nascency of our nation began April 19, 1775, at Concord. We severed the umbilical cord to England with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
By 1781, the Revolutionary battle won, the vigor of our new nation took its first real breath. Like raising any child, developing the correct structure to nurture this new republic was influenced by its parent-founders, environs and the fluidity of its masses. Thomas Jefferson and others started the process with the Declaration — an outline, a first try.
The words of a good friend put it succinctly: “It took 15 more years to turn” our outline “into our first essay — the Articles of Confederation.” The Founding Fathers “knew the initial try was flawed and wrestled hard with what became our freshman essay, the Constitution. Four years later, our graduation valedictorian presented the Bill of Rights.”
Our nation is less than 250 years young, barely an adolescent among our more senior counterparts. Where we have come from had to be worked out through discussion, understanding and compromise. As an adolescent nation, we are still groping for equality, tolerance and brotherhood.
Benjamin Franklin pleaded, “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man … This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech …”
It saddens me when any one of us hesitates to participate in the public discussion of great matters out of fear of the government or ostracism. Those who sacrificed their lives in King Philip’s War (1675-78) to our most current wars invested in our freedoms with their life’s blood, and even more dear to them, the lives of their loved ones, their children, our children.
Whether we agree with the measures taken after 9/11, or the decision to go to war in Desert Storm and Afghanistan, or the doings of Congress or the president; if we refuse to discuss what is in our hearts (not to persuade, but to enlighten and learn), we throw away what so many believed they fought and died for: the preservation of the freedom of thought, the freedom of expression, the freedom of speech.
The sharing of views acknowledges we are each an unresolved mass of conflicted opinions — never perfect but open to the ideas and values of others. Discussion is necessary both for self-improvement and a better understanding of our fellow man.
Cat Trico has been a resident of Boulder City since 2003 and is a past president of the Senior Center and co-founder of the Decker Lake Wetlands Preserve. As an author and editor, she contributed to “Rights, Responsibilities, and Relationships” for youth. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.